An update to Tumblr’s iOS app censors a long list of tags to comply with Apple’s strict security guidelines. The platform explains that it changes iOS users’ ability to access sensitive content, impacting their experience when it comes to searching for content, scrolling through the “Things for you” and “Following” sections. ” from the dashboard, and may even prevent access to blogs that have been flagged. Tumblr says it needs to “expand the definition of what sensitive content is” in order to “remain available on Apple’s App Store,” and it seems Tumblr has stretched it quite a bit.
Tags make posts searchable on Tumblr; Posts with censored tags will not appear on a user’s dashboard or on the platform’s search page. A Twitter thread drew attention to some of the absurd tags that were eventually filtered out on iOS, including the “submission” tag.
Interestingly, though, Tumblr automatically applies that tag when a post is submitted and then published to a blog on the platform. Users on iOS who receive a submission to their blog won’t even be able to view it because the “submission” tag has already been added, as shown in a post from a Tumblr user.
but the other thing is TUMBLR WILL ADD THAT TAG AUTOMATICALLY FOR YOU
— hooray (@Foone) December 26, 2021
Another Tumblr user, aptly named “bannedtags,” kept track of all the banned tags in a Google doc. The user notes that most of these tags have been banned on iOS – not on all devices – and the listed tags are subject to change. Some banned tags are obviously related to sexual, violent or harmful content, but others don’t seem to belong on the list and may do more harm than good by staying on them.
For example ‘girl’, ‘sad’ and oddly enough ‘Alec Lightwood’, an actor from the show shadow hunters, is banned (because even Tumblr can’t handle those eyes). “Single father,” “single mom,” “single parent,” “suicide prevention,” and “testicular cancer” are also on the list and could potentially harm those seeking support in any of these areas.
To make things even weirder, Tumblr has blacklisted some tags that basically act as unspoken social cues on the site. “Me” and “my face” are blocked, both tags bloggers use to label their selfies (oh, and did I forget to mention that “selfie” is also banned?). The platform also appears to have blocked “queue”, a tag usually applied to queued posts and serves as a signal to followers that they may not be online at this time.
Tumblr ran into trouble with Apple in 2018 when the app was unexpectedly removed from the App Store after child porn was found on the platform. As a result, Tumblr banned adult content entirely, a major shift from the platform’s formerly laissez-faire policy on NSFW posts. When Tumblr first implemented the change, innocent posts were often flagged for explicit content, and it seems like history is repeating itself, but in a different way.
Tumblr says it’s working on “additional features for a less limited iOS app experience,” but there’s no information on when or how this will be implemented. Users on Android or on the browser-based version of the site will remain unaffected by this change. It remains unclear why Tumblr banned so many tags or whether Apple was involved in any way. The edge contacted Apple with a request for comment, but didn’t hear back immediately.